Almost two-third (64 percent) of Americans think it’s important for senior business leaders to have an active presence on social media, but they’re looking for business information, not personal anecdotes or business advice, according to highlights from the upcoming fourth edition of The Global Street Fight Study from G&S Business Communications and Harris Poll.

More than a third (36 percent) of Americans want business leaders on social media to talk about their company’s vision, 35 percent want them to talk about their company’s products and services, 32 percent want them to talk about their company’s customer service issues and experiences and 25 percent want to hear about employee culture and engagement.

By contrast, only 18 percent want professional development tips, only 15 percent want personal stories or anecdotes and only 13 percent want advice on running a business.

“Social media gives the public a unique opportunity to see a company through the lens of its leader and for senior leaders to listen through the lens of their stakeholders,” says Steve Halsey, G&S principal and managing director of business consulting. “The Global Street Fight Study tells us it’s something the public craves, but it’s not about telling personal stories and anecdotes. It’s about building stakeholder relationships and personally delivering company news with credibility, passion and a point of view.”

Of particular interest to business communicators, only 28 percent of Americans equate a senior leader’s active presence on social media with personally managing his or her own account instead of using a ghostwriter or marketing team.

“On social media, the voice of senior leadership and the company appear to be one and the same in the minds of most Americans,” says Carol Gstalder, Nielsen senior vice president of consumer insights and co-author of the annual Global Street Fight survey. “Four in 10 Americans follow senior leaders on social media and what senior leaders communicate shapes how the public perceives the reputation of the company. This is incredibly significant in terms of building reputational equity, influencing stakeholder behavior, and drawing on that equity in times of crisis.”

The opportunity to bolster corporate confidence is particularly large among millennials (ages 18-34) and younger Gen Xers (ages 35 – 44). In addition to expecting business information from senior leaders on social media, these cohorts increasingly hear about what’s going on with companies through social media. They’re more likely to trust information about companies when they get it from social media, and they place greater trust in senior leaders who are transparent on social channels.

For example:

  • 63 percent of millennials and 58 percent of younger Gen Xers increasingly hear about what’s going on with companies through social media versus other channels.
  • 53 percent of millennials and 47 percent of younger Gen Xers place greater trust in company information when it comes through social media versus channels.
  • 67 percent of millennials and 61 percent of younger Gen Xers find senior leaders more trustworthy when they are transparent on social media.